Following numerous delays, the Knesset Finance Committee approved on Tuesday the transfer of NIS 211.1 million to Israel discovery programs Taglit-Birthright and Masa. The money will be transferred to the programs through the Prime Minister`s Office.

The committee approved the transfer after the directors of the programs briefed it on the use of the funds and the programs` goals.

Taglit-Birthright CEO Gidi Mark said some 350,000 Jewish youngsters from 60 countries have participated in the program thus far. According to him, the program is economically beneficial and has brought in some NIS 3 billion to the Israeli market. Taglit`s annual budget stands at $130 million, or half a billion shekels.

For every shekel the government invests in the program, another 2-3 shekels are donated by Jews in the Diaspora.

Mark stated that Taglit has also helped to strengthen the bond between Israel and the Diaspora and assists in the PR efforts on campuses abroad that are meant to counter anti-Israel activity. According to the Taglit CEO, the organization increases the rate of aliyah to Israel and helps preserve the Jewish lifestyle among young Jews abroad. In the framework of the program, Jewish youngsters from various countries (60% from the US) visit Israel, usually for a period of 10 days.

Masa CEO Liran Avisar told the Finance Committee that the project is aimed at bringing to Israel young Jews aged 18-30 for a period of five months to a year. Those participants who return to their home countries, he said, remain connected to Israel. Some 86,000 young Jews have taken part in the program so far (60% from the US).